County letter to Salazar alleges failure to meet dam settlement commitments

By David Smith
Siskiyou Daily News
June 11, 2010

Yreka, Calif. - Following up on issues related to four dams along the Klamath River, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors authorized a draft letter Tuesday urging Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to honor commitments made to the county at an April 1 meeting.

That meeting, at which the board voted to not sign the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA), featured Salazar's representative John Bezdek and United States Bureau of Reclamation Klamath Program Manager Dennis Lynch as speakers. 

The letter states that Bezdek had told the board at the meeting that regardless of the board's vote, the Department of the Interior "would continue to remain engaged with the County regardless of the vote of the Board with respect to the KBRA and KHSA and that the Department of the Interior would review the Klamath Basin Compact and explain the Department's position."

The letter also states that the board believes there was a commitment by various individuals to assist the county in finding funding to participate in the various studies that will inform Salazar's decision of whether or not the JC Boyle, Iron Gate, Copco 1 and Copco 2 dams on the Klamath River will be removed as per the KHSA.

"It was our understanding that there would be meaningful engagement with the County on a government-to-government basis rather than simply treating the County of Siskiyou as a member of the public," the letter states.

The letter goes on to state that the board feels that the commitments have not been honored, alleging that the county has been "intentionally isolated" from meaningful participation in the process and "essentially politely listened to and then ignored."

The allegations also cover the board's belief that the Department of the Interior has provided funding to various tribes for years to participate in some of the studies being used to inform the dam removal decision.

The Klamath Basin Compact is a bi-state agreement between California and Oregon, signed in 1956, that sets forth control of Klamath water resources for a number of uses, including municipal, agricultural and fish restoration. The county's letter references the Klamath Basin Compact Commission's recent decision to endorse the KHSA and KBRA, stating that the board feels the decision was made without a "meaningful opportunity" for the county to be involved.

Another issue raised in the letter is the process currently underway in the Siskiyou County court system titled Tulelake Irrigation District v. All Persons Having or Claiming to Have an Interest in the Validity of Agreements Entered into by Tulelake Irrigation District Entitled "Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement for the Sustainability of Public and Trust Resources and Affected Communities" and "Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement."

The letter alleges that the Tulelake Irrigation District is "seeking to validate both Agreements through a court process before any environmental analysis is completed."

According to the letter, the board believes that the environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is being separated from the process that will be used to inform Salazar's decision. At a recent meeting of the secretarial decision team, however, it was noted that while the NEPA/CEQA process is being treated as a different "track" than the secretarial determination overview process, both processes will gather information to inform the dam removal decision.

The letter also includes various arguments the board has made in the past, including a focus on ensuring that human impacts in the county are considered in any dam removal decision.

The letter concludes, "The Board of Supervisors therefore respectfully calls upon you, as the Secretary of the Interior, to honor the representations made to this Board that we would be allowed to meaningfully participate and that a robust environmental review, meeting all the requirements of law, would be conducted and completed before any decision is made. As this matter is currently moving forward, your commitments are not being honored."

During the discussion of the letter at the meeting, Natural Resources Policy Specialist Ric Costales noted that the consulting firm CDM, which has been tasked with managing the information-gathering for the secretarial overview track, called him looking for sources of input on the potential social and economic impacts to the county.

Costales stated that numerous communities have contacts for gathering information and opinions of the general public, and Board Chair Marcia Armstrong explained that her Web site has information on Siskiyou County's social and economic issues. That information can be found at Armstrong's site at <>

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